Cleveland’s march to 18,000

Military WWI 1942.77 Training_PD

When the Indians take the diamond at U.S. Cellular Field tonight, and Mat Latos fires the first pitch of the day, it will mark the beginning of the 18,000th game in Cleveland’s franchise history.

For a moment, though, there was a bit of confusion over the timing of this milestone. One research outlet had the Indians at 17,998 games, while another had them at 17,999. The Indians reached out to Elias Sports Bureau to confirm that Game 1 of tonight’s twin bill in Chicago would indeed be No. 18,0000.

Elias confirmed as much. Cleveland enters the day with 9,119 wins, 8,791 losses and 89 ties. There was, however, a slight caveat. Elias also noted that, “It’s 18,001 if you include the two games which the Indians forfeited in 1918.”

It turns out that Cleveland did not show up to a scheduled doubleheader in St. Louis on what was the planned final day of the war-shortened 1918 season. For some time, those two games counted as losses for Cleveland in the American League record books, and two wins for St. Louis. Public websites have since removed those games from the win-loss records.

Jeremy Feador, the Indians’ team curator, sent along this nugget from the Plain Dealer back when this happened:

“At the next American league meeting,” said [Red Sox owner Harry Frazee], “six clubs are going to ask why Cleveland did not play two games at St. Louis. It was the greatest violation of the league constitution in the history of the league. Cleveland cannot hope to escape with a fine of $1,000 per game. Such a fine is too trivial for such an offense.”

Jim Dunn, president of the Indians, says that Frazee can go as far as he likes as he announced his intention of allowing his team to disband prior to Labor Day after a conference with his players who declined to make the trip to St. Louis. At the office of the American League it was said that Dunn would have no cause for worry as the Cleveland magnate had merely obeyed Secretary Baker’s [Newton Baker, U.S. Secretary of the War during World War I] order to the letter and no one could criticize him or his players for so doing.

Them’s fightin’ words!

Anyways, today marks Cleveland’s 18,000th game, whether Harry Frazee — the guy who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, by the way — likes it or not. Game 2 of tonight’s doubleheader in Chicago will also be the 18,000th game in the history of the Chicago White Sox.

As it happens, Cleveland took on Chicago in the first-ever American League game — Game No. 1 for both franchises — way back on April 24, 1901. They met for this base ball affair at the South Side Grounds.

Bill “Chick” Hoffer to the mound for the Cleveland Blues against Roy “Boy Wonder” Patterson of the Chicago White Stockings. Based on which publication you believe, there were between 9,000-14,000 fans at this game, which was won by the White Stockings by a count of 8 to 2.

Baseball History Daily has a lot of info on the game, along with this nugget from the Chicago Tribune:

“Under the fairest skies the weather clerk could select from his varied stock of April goods; with a championship pennant floating high above them from the proudest pine of all Michigan forests; with 9,000 fans to cheer them from a pent-up enthusiasm that burst forth at every possible opportunity, the White Stockings open the American League baseball season on the South Side Grounds yesterday with a clean-cut victory over the aggregation from Cleveland.”

And from the Chicago Inter Ocean:

“As a grand opening it was an unqualified success, something which Charles Comiskey can look back upon in after years with all the serene satisfaction of a baby who has just swallowed a tin Indian.  As a ball game it was a hideous nightmare, a cold and icy vision of the darksome night, a living horror, let loose to stalk adown a diamond field, hooting hoarsely…With pomp and ceremonial, with braying of bands and braying of fans, with an enormous audience gathered in the frapped stands, the American League season of 1901 was duly opened in Chicago, and the real champions, Comiskey’s White Stockings, began their campaign by giving the Clevelands all that was coming to them.  The afternoon was cold; the stands were Greenland, and the bleachers bore nets of icicles.  Yet 10,000 cranks and crankesses, keen devotees of the game.”

Also from the Chicago Inter Ocean, on Dummy Hoy‘s attempt to steal third in the sixth:

“[Catcher Bob] Wood threw wild, and [Bill] Bradley scooped up the ball way off from the cushion. As Bradley, with no thought of the runner, turned to return the ball to the pitcher, Hoy, losing his balance as he ran, slid clear over third, out into the field and right into Bradley, his knee striking the ball clasped in Bradley’s hand. It was possibly the first case on record of a man’s forcing a put-out on himself, and the crowd marveled greatly, perceiving that the science of the game had much advanced, and that there were new freckles every day.”

Man, old base ball writing was the best.

Enjoy No. 18,000. Here’s to 18,000 more.

(top photo from baseballhall.org)

–JB

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